Archive for twilight women

Unnatural by Sloane Britain (Midwood #47, 1960)

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

I wonder how a lesbian author felt having to, for marketing and legal reasons, have “Two women sharing a love that was unnatural” and “forbidden love in the twilight world of the third sex” on the cover of her novel, especially when she was also her own editor.

Unnatural is the story of Allison’s wandering maze through the lesbian world, and her love for Lydia, a woman who has made Allison her submissive in a D/s relationship.

Is this the same Allison in These Curious Pleasures?  Do the events in this novel take place before the other?  Britain doesn’t say, but it’s possible.  The Allison in Pleasures is hesitant to get into a serious gay relationship with another woman because of past bad experiences, and Unnatural is all about Allison’s bad sexual experiences.

The first is a rape by her boss at her first job in New York. She has come to the Big Apple with Big Dreams.  She does secretarial work and her boss had taken notice of her.  He calls her into his office, plies her with booze, and then makes his move on her…she is frozen, not knowing what to do.  She’s a virgin.  She lets him fuck her.  When he sees the blood on the couch, he freaks out, saying he would never have done it had he known.  Worried about repercussions, he gives her $100 and tells her to go home and look for another job…

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Warm & Willing by Jill Emerson (Lawrence Block, Midwood Books)

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction, Midwood Books, Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Emerson - warm and willing

Robert Silverberg wasn’t the only man writing a plethora of lesbian titles under female pseudonyms — Lawrence Block had him beat.

In fact, Block’s first sale, in 1958 (at the age of 19 -20) was the lesbiania novel, Strange Are the Ways of Love by Lesley Evans (again that pun with the first name, like Leslie in Longman/Silverberg’s Sin Girls).  And here you tought Mr. (Ms?) Lawrence Block started off as the great crime fiction writer he is today…

Evans - Strang are the ways of love

He only used that pen name once — he then went on to be Sheldon Lord at Beacon and Midwood, Andrew Shaw at Nightstand, and then Jill Emerson at Midwood for several titles — one, Enough of Sorrow, is considered a lesbian classic, and has been excerpted in a Cleis Press anthology, Lesbian Pulp, where no mention is made that this is a man writing as a woman — as all the other writers in that book are actual women (and lesbians) it seems Block duped the editor, which attests to his skills as a writer.

Enouigh of Sorrow lesbianpulp

He later switched lesbian and bi-sexual novels to Putnam in the 70s, such as the explict The Trouble with Eden, about swingers.

Emerson - troible with Eden

As Dr. Benjamin Morse, he wrote the faux sexology studies The Lesbian and The Sexually Promisciuous Female (discusses lesbianism and bi-sexuality) akin to Silverberg’s L.T. Woodward, M.D.’s Twilight Women, for the same publishers (Monarch and Lancer).

Morse - Lesbian

In a funny act of postmodern reflexivity, in the Andrew Shaw novel, Butch, a confused woman sees and buys Morse’s The Lesbian on a newsstand; after reading it, she realzies this is what she is and sets herself on a stange sexual journey (such references to other books is common in the Shaws and Sheldon Lords, plus a continuous ref. to a film/book, The Sound of Distant Drums).

BUTCH

So: a fake gender study influences a fictional character’s life path…this begs a question with moral and ethical undertones: did any actual women read The Lesbian at the time and were influenced by what was fiction masquerading as fact?

Back to Warm and Willing

This certainly is Block’s style (another one, by Sheldon Lord, The Sisterhood, I’m not sure) and is set in Greenwich Village — so lush is the detail (and in other Block books) we know Block loves this part of New York, and lived there at the time (he may still).

The protagonist is Rhoda, 24, just out of a loveless marriage (usual set-up for many lesbian novels).  Why did she marry?  She thought that’s what young women do by age 22.  But she did not care for sex, did not love her husband.  She was “frigid.”  She let her husband go out and have affairs.

She works in a gift shop in the Village, lives in a small room nerby, lives an uneventful, invisible existence until one day a 28-year-old blonde, Megan, comes in to buy a gift (for the woman she juts broke up with, we later find out).  There is an odd connection.  Megan comes back the next day and asks Rhoda out to lunch.  Rhoda accepts, and she has no idea Megan is gay.

Later, Megan lures Rhoda up to her apartment on the West Side and plies Rhoda with scotch and proceeds to tell her that Rhoda probably doesn’t know, but the reason she could not enjoy sex with her ex-husband is because she’s a dyke, in the closet.  Megan “knows.”  Rhoda is shocked. But Rhoda lets Megan have sex with her and the doors to escstasy com flying open and Rhoda has never felt such “release” before.

She moves in with Megan.  Megan is an interior decorator.  They hang with a group of lesbians at lesbian-only Village bafrs and events.  At a party one night, a tall woman, a trust fund baby, a 19 year old girl named Bobbie, dances with Rhoda all night because Megan does not like to dance.  Megan gets very jealous.

Then Rhoda gets jealous of any woman that pays Megan attention.  Soon the two are living in constant battle of distrust, they fight and argue, etc.  They are like any straight couple: the same issues of insecurity and fear.

Megan turns to Bobbie for love, and moves in with Bobbie, and whioe it seems magical at the start, the two are worse than Rhoda was with Megan: constant fighting and jealousy.

Rhoda sees a lot of “disfunction” among the lesbian crowd: attempted suicides, infidelity, going from one meaningless relationsip to the next, hurt feelings…thinking she may have made a mistake, one week while Bobbie is out of town, Rhoda acceopts a dinner date with a man who comes in to the store.  She decides she will sleep with him and find out if there is passion, if she’s not gay…

Now, this book was published in 1964 — had it been 10 years, five years earlier, the set-up would have been obvious and common: Rhoda would sleep with the guy, stars would fly, she’d fall in love and marry the man, denouncing her lesbian past.  But that was for Beacon and Nightstand books…for Midwood, Block takes a funny turn —

Rhoda stops the man from sex, half way through foreplay.  She admits to him that this was an experiment, but she says she feels nothing and does  ot find the male sex attractive.  She says she will go through with it for leading him on but he says no, he says, “Go away.”

So Rhoda leaves — back to her apartment with Bobbie, back to her lif as a realized, maybe empowered lesbian.

Well-written, well-crafted, maybe a tad slow in parts — I was disappointed that none of the Block/Shaw/Westlake/Marshall/Lord in jokes were absent from the text, but perhaops Jill Emerson, being a lesbian, did not hang with those “guys.”

Robert Silverberg’s Lesbian Novels: Sin Girls by Marlene Longman, Diary of a Dyke by Don Elliott, and Twilight Women by L.T. Woodward, M.D.

Posted in Don Elliott, Loren Beauchamp, Midwood Books, Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Robert Silverberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Sin Girls

Sin Girls is Nightstand #1514, the 13th book William Hamling published in early 1960, written by Robert Silbverberg. Seems Hamling wanted a female pen name.  The second Marlene Longman, however, Lesbian Love, was penned by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and tends to be pricey among colletors, up to $200 as seen here.

Lesbian Love - Longman

Harlan Ellison wrote the purple prose cover copy, and I am sure he had a laugh when composing this:

This is the most powerful novel you will ever read on the subject [lesbian desire], written by a woman who is, hersefl, A TORMENTED LESBIAN!

Robert Silverberg: tormented lesbian!! At the Silverberg Yahoo Fan Group,  Silverberg himself commented: “That blrub is incorrect…I was the happiest of lesbians.”

Sin Girls is the story of Leslie — nice pun there, and one woman says, “Hey, that’s a man’s name!”  It opens with Leslie awakened by a nightmare she has every night, remembering the man who raped her when she was a teenager, taking her virginity violently.  She is in bed with a one-night stand in a hotel that caters to lesbians looking for intimate encounters.  In the morning, the other woman says how much fun she had and hopes they will hook up again, but Leslie informs her that she only has one-nighters: no emotional entanglements, no names if she can help it.

Leslie is cold-hearted, seeking only physical relief. It’s a front.  We find out she was not always that way; she has become distant and aloof  from a scarred heart broken too many times.  First, there was the rape, and her boyfriend’s not wanting anything to do with her after (similar to the set-up of Connie by Silverberg’s Loren Beachamp). The rape left her afraid of men, so she turns to women — the common lesbian element (along with a bad loveless marriage and incest) in lesbian pulp fiction by men, sometimes women (March Hastings).

Her first serious lesbian affair is with Laura, a woman 10 years her senior. They live together in what seems like dyke bliss.  Then Leslie has an affair with another young lesbian in Laura’s gay social cirle (with a lot of bull dykes and beanik queers), they get caught, and Leslie gets tossed out on the street.

She later moves in with three teenage girls who dress in leather jackets and jeans.  They have orgies every night, doing round-robin pussy eating, etc. (although not decribed as crudely, of course).  She finds the girls too cruel and sadistic to other people and leaves.  She has a series of short flings, the crosses paths with an older woman who runs an escort agency that caters to rich lesbian women.  Leslie is a gay call for a year, traveling all over the world with herisess and widowed dykes.

While in the Caribbean with a woman who likes to be whipped and flogged before sex, Leslie meets a young college football hero on vacation and falls in love.  She is “weary” of lesbian sex and wants something different.  She denounces her gayness and goes straight, intending on marriage, ending thus:

All that mattered was that the long nightmare was over, that she lay with a man and that with each move of his body he brought her closer to fulfillment, and that she was forgiven and that the bright sun  now rising overthe Caribbean heralded a bright new day, a brand new life just beginning… (p. 191)

This was typical of lesbian fiction — in order to not face obscenity charges, lesbianism was treated as a deviant disease, and the lesbian could not find happiness in the end with a same-sex partner — she had to either come to a horrible conclusion for her unnatural sins or repent her evil ways and find truth and beauty in the arms of an Alpha Male with a nivce big hard dick that provides “fulfillment.”  The nightmare here is Leslie’s years of lesbiana, and she is “forgiven” of such horrors by going to a man for salvation.

This also happens in Silverberg’s other lesbian novel from 1959, Twisted Loves by Mark Ryan, that I previously discussed.

Let us not cry homophobia today — this was a market demand and condition of the times, when being gay was “strange” (hence “queer” later on), referred to as “twilight women” and “the third sex” engaging in “the third theme” or walking down “the 3rd street.”

There were some other Silverberg lesbiana tales from Cornith/Greenleaf, like Flesh Boarder and The Initiates, with lesbian encounters in many other books, like Party Girl, Fires Within, Wayward Widow, etc.  Silverberg’s lesbians always look the same: mannish,smal breasts, short dark hair.  In two books, the same dyke shows up who writes children’s books as a profession.

Flesh Boarder

There is also Diary of a Dyke, a 1966 title from Cornith’s Pleasure Reader series, from Phenix Publications, one of the many shell companies Hamling used to keep the feds scrambling. (Sorry, no cover scan).  Diary of a Dyke is a journal over 3 months as a woman who likes sex with girls tries to denounce her gayness by sleeping with a lot of men, but she still prefers girls.  It’s a funny book, and at first I did not think Silverberg wrote it — in “My Life as a Pornographer,” he states he stopped writing softcore sleaze in 1964-5, yet there are many 1966-7 Don Elliots, either books that were in a pipeline or Silverberg just stopped his two-novels a month output but still penned the cccasional smut book for money or a need to whip one out.  Silberberg says no other writer used the Don Elliott name the way others did with J.X. Williams, Andrew Shaw, and Don Holliday.

Woodward - twilight WomenThere is also the bogus case study “non-fiction” book Twilight Women by L.T. Woodward, M.D., a pseudonym Silverberg used for a dozen books from Monarch Books, Lancer, and Belmont.  This one, like the other Woowards, is really a collection of short stories made to look like a doctr’s case histories of patients he has treated — in this case, women who are lesbians and need to be cured.  Each story delves into the why and how each woman went gay, or is bi.

I plan to devote a long blog, and a whole acadmeic essay, on the many faux sexology books published in the 60s, riding the tail of the success of the Kisney and Masters and Johnsons Reports, quetsioning the ethics of such, and whether or not such presentations of fiction as fact was “dangerous” or irresponsible — but hey, where there is a market…

…plus, I have done the same with my Dr. Mundinger-Klow titles for Olympia Press, so, er. um…..!

I have a huge stack of lesbian sleaze here that I will blog about over the next two months — Lawrence Block published a lot of lesbiana as Sheldon Lord, Dr. Benjamin Morse, Lesley Evams and Jill Emerson (his first sale was a lesbian book to Beacon in 1958, and many of his Midwoods had lesbian themes).  And I have lez books by real gay women like Randy Salem, March Hastings, Vin Packer, as well as William Coons’ pen name, Barbara Brooks.

Rader - Gay Scene

Warm and Willing

BUTCH

Hastings - 3rd Theme

Hastings - Heat of the Day

Ellis - 3 of a Kind

Hastings - Three Women

SATAN LESBIAN